I finished reading Batman: Earth One last night. I had heard a lot of great things about the graphic novel, so admittedly my excitement level was pretty high. The cover (pictured above) is beautiful, dark, and powerful and gives the promise of a different kind of Batman story. Upon reading, I discovered that I was right: I got a very different Batman. I appreciate the idea of trying to re-envision the character of Batman, but the story here just didn’t click with me. Maybe I’m a purist, or maybe I’m just stubborn and don’t like change (my wife would probably attest to the latter). But whatever the reason I couldn’t help but feel that there were too many liberties taken with the origin of Batman. Most of the main points are there: Thomas and Martha Wayne are murdered in the alley behind the Monarch Theater, and Bruce Wayne becomes Batman to avenger their deaths. The major supporting characters are present: Alfred Pennyworth, Jim Gordon, Barbara Gordon, and Harvey Bullock. However, the characters in the story are drastically different then the ones canonized to the Dark Knight’s mythos. Gordon is a clean cop that turns a blind eye to the crime in the city because he fears for retaliation towards Barbara, and only becomes the gruff, no nonsense detective that we all know and love after Barbara is nearly murdered by a serial killer. Oswald Cobblepot is the corrupt mayor of Gotham City and was a good choice for a real-world type villain for Batman to battle with early in his career. Sadly, he only gets one small mention of “Penguin” in the entire story, and it’s tongue-in-cheek. His stature is less dramatic with him being a little taller and slimmer than he is typically portrayed. He does still have the psychopathic personality that has become the norm for his character. Alfred, however, has the biggest character shift. He is shown to actually be Bruce’s legal guardian, a former soldier in the Royal Marines, and is the man that trains Bruce to become Batman, instead of Henri Ducard. While I do like the idea of connecting Bruce and Alfred more on a personal level, the decision to have him train Bruce didn’t really make sense. Sure Alfred could teach him how to fight, but it wouldn’t explain how Batman becomes the “World’s Greatest Detective.” It also doesn’t jive with the character of Batman that Alfred kills someone to save Bruce, and Bruce does/says nothing about it. Plain and simple, Batman doesn’t kill, and wouldn’t condone it from those that work with him.
I did enjoy seeing Batman look vulnerable and a little unorganized and unprepared first starting out. And showing his actual eyes instead of the usual white, pupil-less ones was a nice touch and allows the reader to feel Batman’s emotions more. I’m usually a big fan of Geoff Johns’ work as a writer, and Gary Frank’s artwork is fantastic and shows a definite Jim Lee (my all-time favorite comic artist) influence. But unfortunately, the things I enjoyed about the book were heavily outweighed by the things I didn’t. The book isn’t bad, but it just didn’t do it for me. I’d give it a 6 out of 10.